About Comics Putting Henry Leonard's Dayenu Strips Back Into Print
In the 1950s and 1960s, dozens of Jewish papers around the globe ran Dayenu, a single-panel gag comic series created by one Henry Leonard. That was just a poorly-protected nom de plume for the team of Rabbi Harry Rabin, who wrote the cartoons, and advertising and art director Leonard Pritikin, who drew them. These cartoons were popular enough to have a series of book collections published by New York's Crown Publishers, but those volumes have been out of print for about half a century. Now, by arrangement with Leonard Pritikin's heirs. About Comics is making Dayenu available once again. Dayenu launched in the 1950s in the Jewish Voice, a publication based in Los Angeles, which is where Rabin had various positions including being Executive Director of the Los Angeles Hillel council During the 1960s, Crown published four collections of the gags: Open Your Mouth and Say "Oy" (1960), Never on Shabbas! (1962), With a Little Bit of Mazel-Tov! (1965), and Bagel Power (1969). About Comics has not only reprinted all four of these as stand-alone volumes priced at $10 apiece, but also collected all four into one volume, Dayenu Dayenu, for $20.
Dayenu (pronounced dah-YAY-noo) is a Hebrew word meaning "that would have been enough", and is used religiously in response to the listing of things that G-d has done for the Jews. Acclaimed writer Harry Golden, in his foreword for Never on Shabbas!, notes that the term "lends itself very well to this aspect of our people – the ability to poke fun at ourselves." The cartoons deal with then-modern (and in many ways, still modern) Jewish life in a laughing, loving manner, covering everything from holiday foods to synagogue attendance to dealing with antisemitism. A running subset of the series are scenes marked "When the Messiah Comes….", showing what a perfect world would be like to poke fun at the imperfections of the world as it is.
"For years I've published a line of reprints of religious cartoons of the 1950s and '60s," explains Nat Gertler, head honcho of About Comics (really, sole honcho; About is a mono-honcho publishing imprint.) "I've put out about 20 books of Catholic cartoons, including Cracks in the Cloisters, which is monk and nun cartoons by an actual monk, and Heavenly Days by Carol Meiling, nun cartoons by a woman that my research suggests was a nun. And then there's Lots of Fun in Church, a book of Episcopal cartoons written by Reverend Henry Charlton Beck. But I'm a Jew, and I'd been looking for a good set of relevant cartoons. To have 'Dayenu', this lighthearted series written by a rabbi, really satisfies a need."
Open Your Mouth and Say "Oy" (ISBN 978-1-949996-44-9, 76 pages), Never on Shabbas! (978-1-949996-47-0, 84 pages), With a Little Bit of Mazel-Tov! (ISBN 978-1-949996-46-3, 82 pages), and Bagel Power (ISBN 978-1-949996-48-7, 68 pages) are 5.25"x8" paperbacks with black-and-white interiors priced at $10 US apiece. Dayenu Dayenu (ISBN 978-1949996494) is a 296 page 8.5"x5.5" black-and-white paperback priced at $20 US. Comic book retailers and bookstores interested in carrying them should contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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